February 13, 2007

Banfi's Opens After Remodeling

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It just may be the nicest place to take your Valentine’s date — and still use your CornellCard.

After undergoing a six-week renovation process that began in December, Taverna Banfi in the Statler Hotel, formerly known as Ristorante Banfi, re-opened last week. According to Statler employees, patrons have been pleased with the newly remodeled restaurant.

“So far, the response has been very positive,” said Richard Adie ’75, Statler Hotel general manager.

Similar to the former ristorante, the Taverna will be modeled after Tuscan restaurants in Italy. The new Banfi’s, however, which now includes antipasto, wine and dessert bars, will be much less formal than the old restaurant.

“We wanted it to be warmer and more inviting,” Adie said. “It’s much more intimate than the old Banfi’s.”

Although Banfi’s is now more casual, the restaurant will continue to serve Tuscan-inspired dishes. Over the past year and a half, Statler officials planned changes to the restaurant to modernize the space. Changes include new lighting, furniture, a new menu and a different layout for the main dining room. According to Adie, the new Banfi’s was designed in part by Christophe Bergen ’76, who works at a Tuscan design firm.

To update the menu and keep it authentic, Chef de Cuisine Thomas Gisler spent time in Italy studying with various Italian chefs. Chef Gisler said like Tuscany, upstate New York is rich in agriculture, and the new Banfi’s menu reflects the unique agriculture of the area.

According to Director of Operations of Banfi’s Kelly Scalia ’99, many of the menu items Banfi’s serves will continue to come from local organic farms in the Greater Ithaca area.

“We are offering Gimme! Espresso, many local wines and organic fruits and vegetables from over 20 local farms,” Scalia said.

Initially, $500,000 was budgeted for the renovation. The exact amount of money spent thus far has not been calculated, however, because several companies like Oneida China, who have strong relationships with Banfi’s, have donated items for the new restaurant, Adie said.

The Mariani family, which includes wine-proprietor John Mariani Jr.’54, worked closely with Banfi’s officials to create the decor of the restaurant, as well as the new menu. According to Adie, the Mariani family’s dedication to Cornell University and the Statler Hotel is due to Cornell’s extensive wine education courses. The new Banfi’s will offer community wine-tasting and education classes in an effort to bring more members of the community to the restaurant and to educate the community about wine.

The Statler Hotel often does construction during the winter when the hotel is not as busy, and next winter Statler officials plan to remodel hotel guest rooms, Adie said.